Russia eyeing partnership, not military alliance, with PH

Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev gestures as he talks about the Philippines and Russia relations in a media forum Tuesday, Nov.29, 2016 at suburban Quezon city

MANILA — Russia is not seeking a military alliance with the Philippines, but is looking at intensifying its “partnership” and “friendship” with Manila, its ambassador said on Tuesday.

Ambassador Igor Khovaev stressed that Moscow did not have any military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region and intended to keep it that way, despite warming ties between the two nations.

“If some countries create close military alliances, it means that they want to ensure their security to some extent in expense of other members of the international community,” he told a news conference.

“It’s not the way for us,” the envoy added, noting that Russia was in favor of a “new architecture of equal security for all regions and nations.”

He refused to comment on the Philippines’ other military alliances.

But he said that “no other country should interfere with the relationship between the Philippines and Russia.”

Khovaev emphasized that their present ties with China, Vietnam and India were based on a model of “strategic partnership,” not a military commitment.

He said Russia remained open to all options, including long-term supply of military hardware “without political conditionality” like adherence to human rights. He was apparently alluding to the US Congress’ conditions for military assistance.

Since taking power in June, President Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the United States. He has declared intentions to bolster relations with China and Russia as he revamps Philippine foreign policy that has long leaned on Washington.

He has talked about a “new world order” led by the two regional behemoths, and has openly talked about his admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, calling him his “favorite hero.”

Khovaev said the feeling between the two leaders was “mutual.” The leaders had a chance to meet briefly on the sidelines of a summit of Asia Pacific leaders in Peru, and both appeared to show “trust in each other.”

Specifics on the partnership would have to be made in the lower level, with both nations looking at agreements on agriculture, telecommunications and infrastructure, among others.

The diplomat also noted that Russia is open to supplying arms to the Philippines and other interested nations.

“We are interested not only in the long-term supply of weapons, but also in maintenance [of arms],” Khovaev said. “We are also ready to provide assistance to build on defense.”

He stressed, however, that the Russian approach to this particular partnership has “no political conditionality.”

“We do not use arms for political pressure,” he said. “Business is business.”